Southern Tanzania: Sep 18—Oct 06, 2018

Endemic Birds & Spectacular Mammals

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Departs: Dar es Salaam
Tour Limit: 12
Operations Manager: Erik Lindqvist
Download Itinerary: PDF (153.5 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Kevin Zimmer

Kevin Zimmer has authored three books and numerous papers dealing with field identification ...

Local Leader

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African Elephants on Great Ruaha River, Tanzania

African Elephants on Great Ruaha River, Tanzania— Photo: Andrew Molinaro/shutterstock


A survey of some of southern and eastern Tanzania’s richest areas for endemic and regional specialty birds and mammals, including visits to exotic Pemba Island, the Udzungwa Mountains, and the Kilombero Valley, with a special emphasis on specialties of the southern Miombo woodlands. Superb game viewing, with many days spent in some of Tanzania’s largest and finest parks and reserves, including Ruaha, Mikumi, and the vast Selous, where, in addition to the full range of more typical east African mammals, we could see Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah, as well as African Wild Dogs (uncommon, but seen regularly), Sable Antelope, Greater Kudu, and many others.

The name “Tanzania” conjures immediate images of Ngorongoro Crater, Oldupai Gorge, and the vastness of the Serengeti, with its annual spectacle of immense migratory herds of large mammals. Indeed, each of these locations exceeds the hype, and collectively they have made our Northern Tanzania tour a perennial favorite. But there is so much more to this amazing country, and this new tour, conducted during the dry season, is intended as an introduction to “the other Tanzania,” where most of the country’s endemic and near-endemic birds occur, and where some of the largest parks and reserves in the country (and in all of Africa) are home to not only the full complement of big game found on the traditional northern circuit, but also to a number of spectacular mammals that are seldom, if ever, found in the north. This tour serves as both a wonderful introduction to the habitats and faunas of east Africa, and as a complementary “different take” on the region, for those that have already experienced and fallen in love with the more beaten paths of Kenya and northern Tanzania, and are looking for a sequel with a new cast of birds and mammals.

African Skimmer, immature

African Skimmer, immature— Photo: Karel Bartik/shutterstock


The tour kicks off with a visit to exotic Pemba Island, part of the Zanzibar Archipelago of the Indian Ocean, and just thirty-odd miles offshore from the Tanzanian mainland. A popular diving and snorkeling location, most famous for its cloves and spices, Pemba is home to an endemic mammal (the Pemba Flying Fox) and four endemic bird species:  Pemba Scops-Owl, Pemba Green-Pigeon, Pemba Sunbird, and Pemba White-eye, as well as many other birds of special interest, such as African Pygmy-Goose, Palm-nut Vulture, Crab-plover, Sooty Gull, Mangrove Kingfisher, and Black-bellied Starling.

Upon leaving Pemba, and after an overnight in Dar es Salaam, we will fly to Ruaha National Park, where our safari will begin in earnest. Encompassing more than 7,800 square miles, Ruaha is the largest national park in all of east Africa. The park is particularly noted for its large elephant population, but is also home to Cheetah, Leopard, Lion, African Wild Dog, and the spectacular Sable Antelope, among many other iconic mammals. More than 570 species of birds have been recorded within its borders, among them, the endemic Yellow-collared Lovebird and Ashy Starling, along with such special birds as White-backed Night-Heron, White-crowned Lapwing, African Skimmer, Racket-tailed Roller, Magpie Shrike, White-headed Black Chat, and many others. Three days spent in the renowned Selous Game Reserve will offer even more abundant opportunities for seeing big cats, African Wild Dogs, and all of the typical game mammals, as well as an impressive diversity and cross-section of savanna and Miombo (Brachystygia) woodland birds. The Selous was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and covers more than 21,000 square miles (not including several additional buffer zones), making it one of the largest faunal reserves in the world, and one of the last great wilderness areas of Africa. Among the many special bird possibilities are the lovely Böhm’s Bee-eater, African Skimmer, White-crowned Lapwing, Lesser Jacana, and even the striking Pel’s Fishing-Owl.

Sable Antelope

Sable Antelope— Photo: Quintus Strauss/shutterstock


Mikumi National Park offers classic savanna and floodplain habitats, along with foothills cloaked in Miombo woodlands, and is home to a number of special birds and mammals rarely, or never found in northern Tanzania, among them, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Scheffler’s (split from African Barred) Owlet, Böhm’s and Swallow-tailed bee-eaters, Racket-tailed Roller, Pale-billed Hornbill, Crested Barbet, Reichenow’s (split from Bennett’s) Woodpecker, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Collared Palm-Thrush, White-headed Black Chat, Stierling’s (Miombo) Wren-Warbler, Piping Cisticola, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Shelley’s (Hofmann’s) Sunbird, Retz’s Helmet-Shrike, Orange-winged Pytilia, and spectacular Greater Kudu and Sable Antelope. Situated between the Selous Game Reserve and the Udzungwa Mountains, the Kilombero Valley is the largest seasonal wetland in east Africa and an important, but not formally protected, corridor for wildlife undertaking seasonal migrations between the Udzungwas and the Selous. It supports large numbers of mammals, particularly ungulates, including Eland, Sable Antelope, and the endangered Puku. It is also home to three recently discovered species of endemic birds: White-tailed Cisticola, Kilombero Cisticola, and Kilombero Weaver. Depending on water levels, we may also encounter an impressive variety of waterbirds here, along with Coppery-tailed Coucal, Anchieta’s (split from Marsh) Tchagra, Parasitic Weaver, and Black-winged Red and Zanzibar Red bishops.

The Udzungwa Mountains are part of the chain of isolated and geologically ancient mountain ranges comprising the fabled Eastern Arc Mountains. Cloaked in rain forest, they are noted for their high biodiversity, as well as an exceptional degree of endemism. Although we will not be visiting the higher and more remote parts of these mountains (which would require rigorous trekking, combined with camping), there will still be a wealth of special forest birds to search for, along with two striking primates, the Angola Pied Colobus, and the endemic Udzungwa (Iringa) Red Colobus.

Good to excellent accommodations (including some very comfortable, classic tented camps) and food over most of the route; accommodations more basic (best available; still with private bathroom facilities) for two nights in the Udzungwas; easy wildlife viewing and birding from comfortable safari vehicles throughout most of the tour, with more walking (easy hiking) on Pemba Island and in the Udzungwa Mountains; midday breaks on many non-travel days; climate mostly warm and dry (cooler in the Udzungwas), but more humid at coastal locales (Pemba & Dar es Salaam) and the Kilombero Valley.

Internal flights included.